A farmer whose 12-year-old son was killed in a tractor accident has been fined £1000 by Leicester magistrates and ordered to pay £1500 costs.

Mark Stanbridge (41) of Beecham Grange Farm, Kibworth, admitted breaking health and safety regulations after his son, Sam, was found unconscious in a field last March.

Sam was discovered by his mum and sister some distance from the tractor he had been driving. The tractor had continued on down a slope and come to rest, partly submerged, in the nearby Grand Union Canal.

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Philip Cookson, defending, said that, even though in law under 13s are banned from driving tractors, Sam had grown up with farm machinery and was highly proficient.

But Peter Snelgrove, the prosecuting inspector for the Health and Safety Executive, said: “This was a tragic accident stemming from an unwise and unlawful decision that had been repeated on a number of occasions. It was entirely preventable. Tractors should not be left in the hands of inexperienced or untrained people.”

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Letters were read out in court backing the family. One said Sam’s tractor driving skills were far higher than many people three times his age.

Ahead of the trial family friends and a local councillor had voiced their anger at the decision to prosecute Mr Stanbridge. Councillor Kevin Feltham told FW: “I cannot see any reason to drag the family through another terrible ordeal. It’s a great shame. Have they not suffered enough?”

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John March, a friend of the Stanbridges said he believed the prosecution would achieve nothing. “No good will come of this… It is destructive to the family and the community. It will cause more pain, when we need to heal.”

The Stanbridge family released a statement after the hearing which said: “Sam is sorely missed by his mother, his father, his brother James, his sister Charlotte and the rest of his wider family. Although missed he will never be forgotten.”